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Emerging Digital Generations? Impacts of Child Digital Use on Mental and Socioemotional Well-Being across Two Cohorts in Ireland, 2007–2018


  • Melissa Bohnert

    (Trinity College Dublin)

  • Pablo Gracia

    (Trinity College Dublin)


Despite the growing body of literature on how digital technologies impact child well-being, previous research has provided little evidence on recent digital trends. This paper examines the patterns and effects of digital use on child socioemotional well-being across two cohorts of children grown up ten years apart during the ‘digital age’: the 1998 cohort (interviewed in 2007/08) and the 2008 cohort (interviewed in 2017/18). Multivariate linear regression models were conducted for these two cohorts from the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study, a multi-cohort longitudinal study with rich comparable data on a large sample of 9-year olds (N = 13,203). Results show that (i) in 2017/18 children were more active in digital devices and social media, while in 2007/2008 children spent more time watching TV and adopted less diversified forms of media engagement; (ii) spending more than 3 daily hours on TV/digital activities was associated with significant declines in child socioemotional well-being, while such effects were stronger in 2017/18 than in 2007/08; (iii) media engagement (but not other forms of digital engagement) was associated with moderate declines in socioemotional well-being, both in 2007/08 and in 2017/18; (iv) while children’s media and digital engagement differed by the child gender and socioeconomic background, none of these variables moderated the effects of digital use on children’s socioemotional well-being, neither in 2007/08 nor in 2017/18. Overall, the study reveals persistence, but also some important changes, in recent trends on children’s digital use and its impact on socioemotional well-being in Ireland.

Suggested Citation

  • Melissa Bohnert & Pablo Gracia, 2021. "Emerging Digital Generations? Impacts of Child Digital Use on Mental and Socioemotional Well-Being across Two Cohorts in Ireland, 2007–2018," Child Indicators Research, Springer;The International Society of Child Indicators (ISCI), vol. 14(2), pages 629-659, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:chinre:v:14:y:2021:i:2:d:10.1007_s12187-020-09767-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s12187-020-09767-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Smyth, Emer, 2022. "The changing social worlds of 9-year-olds," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number RS151, September.
    2. Sarahjane Belton & Johann Issartel & Stephen Behan & Hannah Goss & Cameron Peers, 2021. "The Differential Impact of Screen Time on Children’s Wellbeing," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(17), pages 1-14, August.
    3. Tomás Cano & Pablo Gracia, 2022. "The Gendered Effects of Divorce on Mothers’ and Fathers’ Time with Children and Children’s Developmental Activities: A Longitudinal Study," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 38(5), pages 1277-1313, December.

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